History will record January 19, 2010 as a day of transition for America; a day when a political bomb shell landed on politics as usual. While I initially thought the elections in 2006 and 2008 were simply bad election cycles for Republicans and a referendum on President Bush, I’m starting to change my mind and wonder if our country has actually entered a whole new era of history and politics. I wonder if the public wasn’t targeting Republicans, but instead incumbents and the Republicans were just the low hanging fruit as the party of power for the past decade. Like the Era of Good Feelings, Gilded Age, Progressive Era, Watergate, and the Reagan Era, America may be entering a new period of history, but what should it be called?
The election of Scott Brown of Massachusetts to the United States Senate may be an awakening and it may signal more change as populism returns to rotate the crops. Scott Brown may be a new and independent voice and he may represent the 41st Republican vote needed for a filibuster, but he will also be forever linked to the late Senator Ted Kennedy who held that seat from 1962 until his death in August. Like Brown, Kennedy also won the Senate seat in a special election. However, unlike Brown, Kennedy became the epitome of elitist liberalism on numerous issues including immigration. Kennedy was one of the Senate’s leading voices in support of amnesty and his leadership in passing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 started the largest immigration wave in history. Scott Brown appears to be a sharp contrast to Kennedy on immigration, but most importantly his 41st vote severely complicates matters for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who still wants a healthcare bill and really wants another shot at “comprehensive” amnesty.
While there are a few pro-amnesty Republicans in the Senate like Sam Brownback and John McCain, even they realize the political stakes and don’t want to give Harry Reid a victory or endanger other Republicans, even if they personally support open borders. In effect, without the supermajority, the Democrats have less time to move an amnesty bill because Reid has to move at least one Republican to his side while holding all 57 Democrats and 2 independents, which is a tough lift and long negotiation process. Furthermore, immigration is still not the top issue for Democrats and it will take more time and negotiating to finish a healthcare bill before they move on to other issues, not to mention Appropriations season. And, if the 2005 and 2007 Senate amnesty bills are any indication, whatever comes from the Senate will contain numerous pages of legislation, numerous press conferences, and hearings in every committee of jurisdiction.
Reid has about 8 months to complete an amnesty bill before Senators return to their states to campaign and control the damage caused by an unpopular 111th Congress. Considering the slow process, the most likely threat for a Senate amnesty is a smaller bill like the DREAM Act after the elections and before the new Congress when lame duck Congressmen have one last shot to move their bills, and without political repercussions. More specifically, Reid’s Nevada senate seat is in cycle, he is trailing in the polls, and he has to return to Nevada to defend his record and convince voters to elect him to a 5th term. If he gets too involved in immigration, he has less time to raise money and defend his job in Congress. Not to mention the media and political winds blowing against him. Without a reliable Senate vote from Massachusetts, Reid’s entire policy agenda is now pushed off schedule, which reduces opportunities for comprehensive legislation of any type and threatens the reelection of the Democrat leader.
While I intend to write another blog about Harry Reid later in the election process discussing his polls, growth in office, and a conveniently located Mexican Consular office in downtown Las Vegas, the election shockwave from Massachusetts can be felt right now in Nevada and the grass roots populism that helped Scott Brown win a seat once held by the Kennedy family is ready to go after the Senate Majority Leader. If Reid is defeated, it will mean heavy apples falling high off the tree of liberty, not just low hanging fruit. Moreover, Reid is not likely to be the only apple to fall. We will have entered an age of the citizens.
JONATHAN OSBORNE is the Chief Legislative Assistant for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, Jan 28th 2010 @ 5:34pm EST